Keep Flying

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My new painting, “Keep flying/ Don’t pull back/ stay in motion”

I’m nostalgic for drinking bourbon out of coffee mugs with Ben Clark in my room at the Art Farm. I miss a lot of things, deeply and sincerely, about that little patch of trees stuck between the cornfields in Nebraska. Perhaps it’s peace, perhaps it’s friendship, maybe it’s community or space or time that I miss most of all.

My friend Mac Scott sent me a poem he wrote recently: “It’s best to be patient and respect the uncertainty of life. Because uncertainties hold the mystery. Mystery is where the best part of life lays.”

Easier said than done, sometimes. This whole blog has been about my attempts to be strong and to eliminate fear. To be a real artist means to live authentically, to drink life down to the dregs. But it’s exhausting. It’s hard. It’s difficult to acknowledge something is scary and dive in anyway.

In his poem, “Reluctance,” Robert Frost wrote, “Ah, when to the heart of man/ Was it ever less than a treason/ To go with the drift of things,/ To yield with grace to reason,/ And bow and accept the end/ Of a love or a season?”

Seasons always end — and come again. So this makes for an interesting analogy to love in the poem. Just because we know something will end doesn’t mean you don’t put up a fight for it, does it?

I’m a big believer in pursuing passion — and trying, at least. I feel like there’s enough apathy in the world. I want to be surrounded with people putting up the good fight, even when we feel it to be futile.

Mark Twain wrote “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

I hope to retain the wild-ness I was able to capture in my brief but excessively beautiful Art Farm life — even though it’s a struggle. To keep moving forward and to fly.

Ben Clark sent me his collection of poems “If you turn around, I will turn around.” I sat and read it, quite a haunting and heavy exchange about love, longing, change, aging.

One of the lines is sticking with me lately:

“But why allow life to become a frail bone you settle on until it snaps. Why not eat what you can and carry the rest in salt, paper and twine. Why not walk with purpose through the undergrowth, toward the moon of the forest clearing you remember and trust to still exist.”

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Photobooth pics from Ben’s visit 

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Looking for a little inspiration

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Laura from Aurora, Nebraska

Sometimes the best place to go for a little inspiration is simply out of town. My friend, a brilliant illustrator, Annie Brule said, “Being out of your usual context is almost always good for you.” She was telling me a story over a glass of wine in West Seattle about a weekend trip that gave her clarity.

When I boarded a flight to New York a few days later, I had no goals of seeking anything out or looking for perspective or anything like that. I just wanted to go have fun and see a few friends. Instead, I got inspiration in spades.

There were late night conversations with Aimee about love, life, our past struggles and our future daydreams. There was the instant comfort of a conversation with Selina. There was chatting at the Museum of Modern Art with Raluca about her trip home to Romania and her progress on her novel.

My friend Laura stands out the most. It was her first trip to New York and she took it all in with an unusual finesse and zest, pointing out the smallest of details and asking questions galore as we walked around the city. We all met Laura on maybe our first day at the Art Farm in Nebraska. She popped into the house, explaining that she lived in the next town over and gave us her phone number in case we needed anything. She soon became a dear friend.

Laura is a real Renaissance woman. She works with cows all day in a research project for the university. She can tell you everything about antique tractors or the Nebraska prairie. She’s also an artist, crafter and musician, who writes her own songs and plays guitar.

Over the summer, she told me stories about her Native American roots, her great grandmother who wore long skirts, kept a gun at her hip and could roll a cigarette with one-hand. In New York, she sang a song in Aimee’s living room with such courage. When we complemented her voice and her poetry, she admitted to having sung opera in the past and playing saxophone.

Laura-from-Aurora is who convinced me to take the trip east — even though I was reluctant to make a break in my routine. While we were crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, I thanked her. I said that she is that rare type who follows through on daydream plans — and that’s the type of person who I like the most. She couldn’t imagine being any other way.

On my last night of the trip, I drank spiked apple cider from a nearby orchard in Connecticut with my friend Stan and my cousin Lauren in her new house. We sat on Lauren’s screened porch, watching the sun set and bearing witness to the changing temperatures of a cool fall night. I talked about the uncertainties of my life, my struggles finding enough work to keep myself afloat and my desires to see my art go somewhere one day — whatever that means.

Stan offered to help in whatever ways possible. Lauren encouraged me to open a gallery. We all told stories and laughed as it became dark, then moved inside. I am grateful for the people who have recently become part of my life, for knowing Aimee and Trae, Selina, Raluca and Annie, and Laura. I feel like it would be so easy to have never met them, to have never gone to Nebraska and just turned my car around. I am grateful as well for the people who I already know who continue to push me forward. I feel like it is easy to want more — and perhaps more difficult to recognize that what we want, we’ve had all along — courage, love, inspiration, wild hearts, sympathetic minds and phenomenal beings all around.

On My Last Couple of Days at Art Farm Nebraska

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I wake up with a deep anxiety about leaving the farm and facing the real world — and this makes me realize strongly how much my life has changed lately.

My routine is drastically different. The first step of the day is drenching myself in deet to face not only the mosquitos that swarm outside the door but also those residing in the house — and to stop the ones who have been biting me in my sleep and followed me downstairs for further feasting on my flesh. I put away dishes my roommates have left drying; I wash a few left in the sink. I make coffee in the cracked yellow mug with a little blue bird on it that says “Alouette” — because it’s my favorite shaped mug in the house and because it’s the one Ben brought to me full of fresh coffee in my studio before he left. I boil a little extra water for Z before she stumbles downstairs. I find myself sentimental about the smallest things. The girls who I live with are the same way — we cry together over little things and we laugh so easily that the house shakes.

In my day-to-day existence, I have gotten adept at isolation. I’m a master at loneliness. I am used to taking myself out to solitary whiskeys and dinners alone and pretending that I don’t mind and that somehow getting used to being alone will make it easier to deal with the world. This is not the way I used to be, or the way obviously that I am in my heart, but it’s the way that I have become over the past few years. I add it to the list of things that I would like to change about myself. I don’t want to be afraid that people will hurt me anymore. People will hurt me. I accept that.

I keep thinking — what do I do when I leave this place? How do I stay in this cloud of art that I have created for myself on the farm? How do I keep art as my top priority? How do I stay present?

Aimee texted me, “You leave this place a different person.” I sure hope so.